Latest Entries »

Click Frenzy: The Aftermath

Click Frenzy was aiming to be Australia’s largest online rush sale. Meant to bring in a revolution on how local Australians shop online and encouraging them that they don’t need to look at international retailers for good deals.

Backed by Power Retails, an online retail solutions company; they hoped to take on the popular online sale ‘Cyber Monday’ hosted by various American online retailers during the Thanksgiving holidays.

The concept for Click Frenzy can be explained in few simple steps. Power Retails tags multiple retailers and gets them to showcase ‘deals’ for the 24hour sale event. Retailers have to rent advertising spots within Click Frenzy’s webpage. In turn, Click Frenzy will take care of PR and bring in millions of traffic. Millions of people who want to purchase + good discounted items + dead line of 24 hours for the sale period = awesome business for everyone, right? Unfortunately that was not the case.

Power Retails did a brilliant PR job and created a huge hype about ‘The Sale that stops a nation’ through mass media. They implemented a pre-sale registration for users to update them about the sales. The dice was cast and the battle plans in place.

Come 20th November, Click Frenzy was supposed to launch at 7pm AEDT and continue for 24 hours. But 7pm started a chain reaction of utter PR, Project Planning and Marketing failure for Click Frenzy. Their website crashed couple of minutes before the sale went live. Even the webpages of most of their partnered retailers could not cope with the traffic and broke down.

I had a chat with a fellow Swinburne MEI thinker and retail solutions expert; Jase Goldsmith about what went wrong with Click Frenzy from a marketer’s point of view.

Here is a transcript of our conversation:

Sidds (Me):

Jase Goldsmith, your thoughts on Click Frenzy? 🙂

Jase:

I think it’s a win, no matter what. Compared with people getting killed (UK ’11) in shopping stampedes, this is a much safer option. Whilst I don’t empathise with the behaviour of this type of shopping, I can understand the temptation for marketers.

Response: 

Grant Arnott, Publisher at Power Retail and Director at Click Frenzy, possibly got his vendors through existing Customer / Advertiser relationships.They probably won’t give back any money, it wasn’t that much in the scheme of things and it would just be credited to the next clickfrenzy event. Considering that this one coincides with black Monday (thanks giving) in the US, we will probably see the same thing happen here with Easter, End of Financial Year, Clearance Sales etc., long before Christmas.Just wait for the “Bigger, Better, Stronger” announcements coming up for the nest sale season.Xbox ’07-’08, and PlayStation 04/’11 recovered from their outages in YouTube and Tumblr aren’t remembered for Oct ’12.

Technical: 

The tech glitch is not such a big deal compared with the media coverage that has been received. A bit of humble pie, blame the technology and over popularity and they are the ‘could-a-beens’ without having to prove themselves.From an eCommerce perspective, it’s fascinating. 2nd Gen sites, held together by flimsy API’s are bound to fold under pressure. Trying to integrate multiple sites, platforms etc. into a single market place is certainly very fashionable right now, but fraught with difficulties as sites are still judged by aesthetic appeal instead of robust capabilities.The big guys in town keep messing eCom up, so everyone expects it to fail.The offering would be an easy choice for Marketing Managers who can easily defend their decision.No one is going to lose their jobs. Well, maybe the hosting company, but then, who in Australia has experience, other than the AFL Grand Final at ticketing time for this type of traffic?

Social: 

Compared with the LIKEs on their Facebook Page, the number of Haters was not that high, considering that everyone was online at the time.Click Frenzy Facebook page has 20,596 likes • 5,945 talking aboutthis – up from 14k last night at 7pm whereas the negatives, such as Click Frenzy Fail and others only have a total of 3,830. Some inventive entrepreneurs (selling the online equivalent of cash registers – 2nd Gen eCom shopping carts) were putting out offers, such as the guys from ZOOP Creative (I notice their site was coming soon) as though they were immune from traffic and technical issues.

To Conclude: 

It no big deal. Great PR opportunity, no major financial challenge if structured right and no victims. All in all, a win. Just wait till next time!

Sidds (Me):

A good analysis Jase 🙂 Here are some of my pointers.

The Hype

Building up hype is a good strategy for launching something new. I have done that with many products. But it also has a negative impact if I can’t manage to live up to the expectations created through the hype. Sure enough I will get publicity, both positive and negative. But if the negative outweighs the positive; specially in the age of social media, I will have a big problem of transforming the negative image back to being a positive response. The strength of viral marketing in this case was immense.

Damage Control

Their initial responses towards their customers’ complaints were far from ‘damage control’. Failure to show empathy is a big no-no when your businesses’ face is on the spotlight of good old social media glory.

People still talk about Xbox 360’s RROD issue and Playstation Network outages. Yes they don’t search for it as much as they did when the outage was on. Even couple of years back (5 years after its launch) people were reluctant and searched throughout online forums about feedback before purchasing a 360 because of the RROD issues. Microsoft has come a long way since the 360’s launch to try and rectify the problem. They also issued a ‘no questions asked’ replacement for anyone who had a RROD fault.

Sony Playstation network is a free service unlike Microsoft Live and Sony’s dedicated customers treasure that fact. Yes customers were pissed with the outage, but Sony came back with a massive compensation package. Free premium services for a month from a range of providers, 4 free game titles, and a year’s free identity theft protection for all users.

They acknowledged their mistakes, took into account the negative publicity their products/brands got and worked out brilliant damage control plans. I couldn’t see any of that from Click Frenzy organizers.

The Technical blunder:

They were advertising/talking about this event for a long time. They had pre-registration pages open. Online traffic to their webpage pre-sales when the announcements were made + registration numbers should have given them a good idea about the expected traffic during their sales. Promising of a stable solution and not living up to it has no excuse. I would like to know if they had conducted extensive stress tests of their servers before the launch.

Their Target Market:

They appealed not only to the B&M shoppers but a wide number of online shoppers. From my experience, customers who strictly shop from B&M outlets would still not be influenced to go online and make a purchase. They have their principles which will hold them back. Net savvy and existing online shoppers were the main group who were keen about this sale. Add comparison with well-known international sale events like Black Friday, and you will attract the ‘online bargain hunter’ group straight away. Stampedes on Boxing Day sales are known. And Boxing Day has built up a reputation of good bargain hunting. I however feel Click Frenzy was aimed at capturing those online shoppers and competing against online Black Friday sales. If this sale was on a Boxing Day and even had the online prices discounted at say 30% instead of the 40% you would get by lining up in front of a B&M store you could justify the safety from stampede advantage.

The actual ‘Sale’:

I think most of their prices were not great either. I can walk to a B&M store now and pick up similar items cheaper. Ordering from international online shops would give me even more discounts. When you are talking about a ‘Sale that would stop a nation’; you have to talk to your retail partners and work out on exclusive deals. Comparing discount rates with RRP doesn’t work either. I don’t remember paying RRP for any item I have bought from a B&M outlet here in Australia. End of the day, it should have been Power Retail’s responsibility to ensure that there was actually a lucrative sale for the customers.

I realize that some of the businesses could not afford a lower price. But when an event is created to compete head on against the Cyber Monday sales, you need to ensure that your event can at least match their offerings if not better them.

The Impact:

The sale came into effect amidst the debate about removing the $1000 GST limit and buying local. Not sure if the timing of this sale was pre-planned to counter that or just to compete against Black Friday sales, but success of this event would have contributed towards establishing a trust amongst customers on Australian online retail shopping. Instead they were greeted by technical errors, and non-existent bargains. This in turn justified the typical online shopper’s statement, “its way better to shop from international sellers online”.

The True Victims:

I do feel bad for the small business owners. For a small new start up, every penny counts. I am sure they had to pay a good amount to be showcased in this sale event. If they are not refunded their money and given credit for future events instead, I think the business owners will lose out. Looking at the negative brand image Click Frenzy has right now, without any damage control plans, I can’t see their next Sale to make a huge comeback.

To Conclude:

As I have often adviced to numerous small business owners. Spend some time on working out how to market your product/services. You do not need to start investing huge money on it straight away, but brain storm some marketing ideas with people. There are 101 other ways apart from ‘Massive Sales’ to attract and retain customers in today’s online retail era.

All Click Frenzy has managed to do right now is harvest data from thousands of users and they might as well start selling them to a third party company looking for consumer data leads and get some money back to repay their partners.

No point of talking about the next big thing, when the next big thing is already here. 🙂

Tools of the Trade: part 2

Last week we talked about how Search Engine Marketing tools like Pay Per Click and Search Engine Optimization can help us in driving traffic from the various search engine results page. We also looked at the online version of Advertising.

Lets check out the other tools you can use to market your business online.

Affiliate Marketing:

Affiliate Marketing works towards putting your e-adverts into affiliate member’s websites. The affiliates display your company’s/product’s/website’s advertisement, and if an user is trafficked through one of those adverts and ends up being your customer, you pay the affiliate member’s for channeling that user to you.

You have to choose which affiliate members compliment your business. Having your chocolate company’s website banner on an affiliate member’s page which sells hardware tools isn’t the best example of having complimentary affiliate members.

So we can see that Affiliate Marketing is a more targeted form of Online Advertising.

Viral Marketing:

Viral Marketing is important in the online marketing strategy as it is offline. Internet provides people a cheap platform to communicate with huge masses. If your product or advertisement interests a group of people, be sure that they will spread the word around to another new bunch through electronic communications or social networks. Good customer service, promotion offers, funny advertisements are some of the common material distributed through viral marketing everyday over the internet.

Online Reputation Management:

Viral Marketing brings us to the aspect of Online Reputation Management. If you expect good word about your service being spread through viral marketing, be assured so will negative feedback of your business. People search for information before committing to any business. They check other user’s reviews, feedbacks, examples before going forward with a purchase, and they trust common user’s words more than your paid publications and reviewers. Hence it is very important to manage your company’s online reputation. Make sure you listen, respond and react to what people say about your business online. A pro-active Online Reputation Management will ensure that you ‘care’. Even if a user has had a bad experience with your service, if you show them that you care for their feedback, you can often convert those bad experiences into positive reputation.

Online Public Relationship:

With the onset of internet marketing, it is very important for a business to have an Online Public Relations strategy. Online press releases, optimizing website directories, submitting relevant articles to content distribution sites are some of the activities managed by the Online Public Relations team. Your website isn’t just a brochure but should be an optimized marketing tool. Tell the world who you are, what you do, what you believe and what you offer through your website.

Email Marketing:

Email Marketing is a direct marketing tool in your arsenal. It’s up to you to focus your email marketing towards the correct target market customers. Sending deals of your Chinese restaurant in Melbourne via emails to people who live in Sydney is not effective email marketing. You also have to take into account of the Anti Spam Law which deals with the ethics involved in e-marketing.

Email Marketing is also a good tool to be in regular touch with your existing customers, where you can update them with various information. It is a good idea to have an option for users who visit our website to subscribe to email newsletters. Email newsletter subscription targets users who have shown an interest in your business, and your future email marketing campaigns can bring business from them.

However just implementing all these tools into your e-marketing strategy doesn’t guarantee you perfect results and sales. You can draw traffic, or rather probable customers to your website, but your website has to do the rest of the work of converting the probable customers into customers for your business. You can utilize various tools to analyze the traffic in your website, for example Alexa helps you in conducting a broad analysis of your website’s traffic. Your website should also be easy to navigate through, give the right information to your customers, and be transparent about your business (outline your service limits and conditions).

Just like any warrior, having the biggest sword doesn’t guarantee you a victory; he has to know how to use it. Without knowing how to make best use of his sword, the sword in turn might actually be a burden for him in the battlefield.

Information derived from:

Alexa

Australian E-marketing Code of Practice

The Arrows in the e-marketer’s quiver

Klewes, Joachim and Wreschniok, Robert 2010, Building and Maintaining Trust in the 21st Century, Reputation Capital, Springer, New York.

Tools of the Trade: part 1

Internet marketing gives us a huge arsenal of tools to grow our business. But the tools don’t really auto-function. Meaning, you have to customize and utilize each of these tools according to your business to make them effective. So let’s look at the various tools we have to help us get a strong foothold in the internet.

Search Engine Marketing:

Search engines are your first stop towards achieving a solid e-marketing strategy. Anyone who is looking for any information over the internet will use the search engines, and if they are looking for a product you sell, they are your probable customers. You have to make sure that the probable customers convert into your customers through these search engines.

Search Engine Marketing can be classified under two categories, Paid Search utilizing Pay Per Click (PPC) methods and Organic Search using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) methods.

Pay Per Click deals with buying advertising spots in relevant search result pages. For example, if someone is searching for shops selling Casio watches, your paid advert can be displayed on either the top or around the right hand side of the organic search results. The position of your advertisement in the search page is usually being sold in bids, the highest bidder gets the best placements within the page. You pay for every time a user clicks on your ad in that search result page.

Since you pay for every click which brings a user to your website, you have to ensure that those clicks are converted to business for you. So to take full advantage of this tool, your website should have high rates of netting users to your business once he is in your website, else you would just be paying money for people visiting your website, but not earn any if none of them choose to do business with you.

Search Engine Optimization is all about optimizing your website so that they achieve a high rank in the search engines. The higher rank your page has, the priority it receives in being displayed as a search result. Acquire high enough ranking and you can be featured as the first result in the first page of a search engine result page. Website optimization can be achieved by properly managed and organized coding of your website, proper utilizing of key words, the content covered etc. In short the search engines rank you according to how easy and relevant is your website in giving information to web users.

Search Engine Optimization is a constant process, you have to constantly keep your website updated and managed to not only climb the search engine ranks but also to maintain the rank you achieve.

You do not pay for the clicks in the search engine results which bring customers to your website, but you do spend money on achieving the search engine ranks. So, in a financial point of view, Search Engine Optimization has excellent Return on Investment rates.

Pay Per Click and Search Engine Optimization always work hand in hand to channel maximum traffic towards your website from the search engines so it is advisable to integrate both these tools into your e-marketing strategy.

Online Advertising:

Online Advertising is just the online version of your traditional advertising, but in the internet world. Your Online Advertising campaign should include website advertisements through banners, marketing emails, newsletters, promotion coupons etc. The Online Advertising works towards creating brand awareness within your target market. Most of the Online Advertising campaigns like website advertisements are paid according to Cost Per Acquisition, which is; you pay for users who click your adverts and bring business to you.

Next week, we will look into some more tools a business can use to survive and earn profits in the online world.

Information derived from:

Google Adwords

Payperclick Search Engine Reviews

Search Engine Optimization, ROI

The Arrows in the e-market’s quiver.

E-MARK $$KICHING$$ !!!

If you are after profits, have an E-mark of your company!!

In today’s world having an e-presence is very essential for any business. With the broad availability of information to everyone around, e-presence helps your business to attract customers in more ways than one.

Consider your website as the best virtual tool to compliment your warehouse or shop. Do you think that all the customers who visit your shop know about every brand and product you stock? Your website can take care of that straight away. Create a database of your products in the website with some product information and you are not only informing your customers about the products you sell, but also what the products do and how they compare with something similar.

Informed buying is the trend in today’s world, starting from simple products like a razor blade to a car.

A professional website can also build your business’s image within your consumer group. 9 out of 10 customers would prefer doing business with a company who has a professional website, which discloses information about their products or services and after sales support offered.

If you missed out on the best location for your shop on the boulevard, your e-presence can solve that out for you. Generation Y customers today would search for the product or service they are interested in buying on the internet first before going out window shopping. Google is the market leader of search engine now, and when these probable customers search for a product or service you offer, and your company’s name doesn’t show up on that first page of Google Search results, you just lost a huge chunk of business. In the e-world, being second doesn’t matter; it’s all about being on that first page of search result. Provide enough information about the product or service you are selling, show them the price, inform them about the after sales support you offer, work in your Search Engine Optimization and you can have a huge boost in your sales.

What’s best, Google can show your local customers about your business through Google Maps and AdSense. So if you can manage to get to the first page of the search results, your business would mostly be shown to customers who live near your business, making it even better for you.

Some would argue e-presence is not for every business. And I would say they are absolutely wrong. Even if you sell bricks to construction workers, your website can include clients you have previously sold for, when you set up your business, etc. How does that help? Showing your potential customers that you sell quality bricks (the houses made out of your bricks haven’t fallen apart yet) or that you have been operating in the industry for the last 20 years; reflects your expertise. It is naive to think that your customers will not use internet. If they are not using it today, they will tomorrow. The adoption rate of Internet in the last 5 years reflects that.

So, I would say again, e-presence = profit is a realistic formula in today’s world in any business.

Some more read on this topic:
Importance of Internet Marketing
Company Logo Presence

In Game Advertising

Advertising has come a long way, from wall posters, to hoardings, to newspapers, to radio and tv ads, and even penetrated the realm of internet.

With the advent of the computer and internet a new industry emerged amongst us, the industry of electronic gaming. In generic it signifies development and usage of games in various electronic devices. The list of these electronic devices or platforms grew rapidly, from simple computers to consoles, to internet browsers, to hand held consoles, mobile phones even into the portable mp3 players.

Advertising, I would consider as a wild vine which grips into any industry or platform which can influence the mass media. Also it shifts out from platforms which are losing the interest of the masses. First there was the newspaper, and then we found a burst of advertising for all sorts of products and services aired over the radio. With the television gaining popularity, the advertisements quickly shifted focus to the most watched television channels. These days you can find advertisements of almost every product all over the Internet.

The video games industry was valued at $39billion in 2008. Industry experts, like Activision’s CEO Bobby Kotick expects the industry to easily grow to a $55billion mark by 2012. So, it goes without saying, the potential of the video games industry in today’s world is huge. And what makes this industry grow so fast? The ever growing rate of gamers. (Source)

Video Games often fill the void of ‘what I can’t do in real life’. Hence simple games like Sims (where you simulate the life of your in-game character) and Farmville (where you start off playing as a simple farmer building up your farm as you play) became popular.

The advertising industry identified the potential in the gaming industry and soon started to associate along with it.

You might be wondering, so how does advertising within games work? Is it a simple splash screen of some new product which the player sees before starting the game? It is a bit more complex than that. Most gamers don’t like an advertisement flashed on their face while playing games. However, they don’t mind the advertisements as a part of the game, like the hoarding on the street of a game, or the banners around the football stadium, or even the advertiser’s stickers on their racing car.

In 2005, the spending for in-game advertising (or IGA) was around $56million. Massive Incorporated, a market leader in in-game advertising, estimates that figure to reach around $2billion by 2011.( Source)

So does in-game advertising really work? A recent study conducted by Electronic Arts not only confirmed the theory, but also showed some great numbers.

Electronic Arts had placed advertisements for the energy drink Gatorade on its popular NBA series games. The advertisements were placed on arena signs, score boards, and even water bottles. When Nielsen’s conducted their survey over 100,000 households who purchased at least one of those NBA titles with the in game advertisement, it was found that those households have spent an average of 24% more on Gatorade products than those who did not buy the game. According to reports released by EA later, this signified a Return of Investment of $3.11 per household. (Source)

In another example, when Microsoft recently launched its new search engine Bing, it tied down with one of Zynga’s games for the social network site Facebook called Farmville. If an user joins Bing’s community page in Facebook by becoming a fan, he is rewarded with 3 Farmville cash. This stunt earned Microsoft Bing 400,000 fans in one day! (Source)

Even Barack Obama spent over $44,000 towards in-game advertising for his Presidential campaign.

Google has also joined the bandwagon by launching its AdSense for Games service.

With new methods of measuring the affectivity of in-game advertisements being developed, more companies are entering this new channel to advertise for their products.

So are you game to try out this new advertising channel?

IGA Worldwide
In-Game Advertising Measurement Guidelines

Long gone are the days when you could go and pick up the latest computer games from the shops. Its all about digital media distribution these days. Shops now only have a small section of computer games compared to the console games sections, and mostly they are old titles.

Online services like STEAM, Windows Games Live and Stardock revotionalised how we purchase computer games.

These online services not only attract their customers with their incentives but also take care of their products….literally. Most of the times, the games are way cheaper to buy from one of these online services than buying the same games from the shops. For example, Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days has a price mark of $104 across all Australian Retailers while it sells for only $55 in STEAM’s online shop.

It’s not only about cheaper prices, the online retailers also give out special extra content or even early access to unreleased titles to their customers.

These online customers don’t have to worry about damaging or losing their discs anymore, they have their digital media available at any time from the online servers. All they have to do is go through the trouble of downloading the contents, which are sometimes pretty big, measuring up to even some 5-6Gbs per game.

Moving out of the computer gaming retail market, we can find the use of online shops prevalent in every other industry. From movies, to songs, to fashion wear, to white goods, to electronics and even groceries, all of them have already entered the realm of e-trading.

Retailers don’t just only put up online catalogues on their website, but also options for their customers to purchase items off these catalogues from the comfort of their living room.

Throw in a discounted price, and free delivery options and the retailers can completely change the priority of their sales channel.

The internet did give birth to a completely new sales channel, the e-shops. It’s not just about telling people about your product via the internet, but also selling your stock through it.

Online trading has advantages for the retailers as much as they have advantages for their customers. Selling stock via the internet, saves the retailers all the costs related to having a product physically displayed and hiring sales reps. They don’t have to physically own a shop. An Australian trader can have his online shop based on a server hired in the U.S.A and can still operate in global market. They can always have staff administrating their online support page to help new and existing customers.

Latest technologies are being developed for customers to even smell products they want to buy, like perfumes via their computer.

The e-shops are here to stay and completely change how we shop. So what do you prefer? Shops or E-shops?

Sources and further read:
http://www.ecommerce-guide.com/article.php/3524581/The-State-of-E-Commerce-Online-Shopping-Trends.htm
http://www.ibisworld.com.au/industry/default.aspx?indid=1837

A Powerhouse called Social Networks

Social networks have always been the best platform out there for companies to market their product since the new millennium. Social networks are gaining popularity and the adoption rate curves at the graph boards for the big names like Facebook and Twitter are all going steep up hill.

Humans have always been a sucker for socializing, since our early cave days. Give them a method of communication which is cheap and boundless, and they start on a socializing frenzy.

So, coming back to how the marketers benefit from social networking. They capitalize in more ways than one, but mainly on two main aspects, trust and the network chains.

For example, you saw this movie poster in a pub, and you decided to go watch that movie. After watching it, since you really liked the new movie…you write in your Facebook or Twitter profile how much you enjoyed watching it. You have 300 friends in Facebook who read your profile update about the movie and ask you about it. You tell them how great it is, and that they should definitely watch it. 200 of your friends decide on trusting your review and watch the movie. There you go, the movie’s producer got 200 free indirect marketing leads about his movie from a direct exposure of their poster to one person. So in this situation we could assume that for every 1 exposed person (of the movie poster) the producer can approximately web in another 200 customers. So think how many customers he can net in if 200 people saw that poster.

Now on a little different scenario, the producer only decided to put up the posters in Australia first, because that’s where they are screening the movie. They have not worked on any marketing campaign for its release in Canada. But you have 50 friends in Canada, who hear about that movie for the first time after reading your status update. Now they get all hyped up about the movie and start posting in their profile how they are waiting for this new movie to be released in Canada. 1000 of their local friends read their status updates and join the bandwagon too…and it doesn’t stop there, but keep spreading amongst friends of friends of friends, like a chain reaction. Right there, the producer got free publicity of the movie and created hype in a completely new market which he didn’t even start campaigning for.

That is the power of social networking. Yes, it is based on the very old concept of viral marketing, but it’s more like viral marketing in turbo mode.

Social networking is a powerful tool, which the marketers have to be very careful while using it. The trickiest part is, they might be marketing in the social networks without even realizing it. This is why, it is very important for any company to be aware and concerned about their company’s or products’ public image. Just like one successful movie can get free world wide positive marketing, one wrong move by the company or a bad product can also earn them global negative image overnight.

Quite a smart move from MS.

The opinion amongst the 360 gamers:its a fail. Xbox360 should be all about hardcore gaming, why deviate away from that path? If its about capturing the casual gaming market, Wii is already there…no body wants a Kinect when they have a Wii.

 So really, whats MS’s Kinect about? In other circumstances, a company had to create a new brand+product to enter/target a new market, for example Toyota and Lexus.

With Kinect however, MS doesn’t have to go through all the trouble of creating a new console and follow all the R&D and initial marketing of supporting an individual product in the new market segment. Rather, their intention is to use the Kinect to compliment the 360’s sales WHILE entering the new market as well. That way, it saves them from creating/supporting/branding/marketing and relying on a complete new ‘console’ product line up for capturing the market shares.

The ‘hardcore’ gamers will still buy 360, and if MS can ship titles which are a bit more advanced and better than the Wii, the casual gamers would jump on to the new bandwagon. Remember, the 360 already benefits from graphically ‘good looking’ games than the Wii.

The casual gaming market is far from being saturated, there is so much potential of capturing and creating new market share from there.
Plus its also how they market the games. Like Apple markets their Iphone/Ipad as a ‘fashion accessory’ than a gadget (phone). For example, if they bring out a game with a Zumba theme, there will be tons who would be interested (look at the craze of Zumba fitness class these days) in Kinect as a fitness equipment like Wii. 

I think Kinect is here to stay, create a new market of gamers. Might even influence those who found the ‘gamer’ in them via Farmville and Plants Vs Zombies to pick up a brand new 360 with Kinect for themselves.

Multiplayer modes of any form are the new selling point for games today. Most of the developers have realized that humans are a sucker for social interaction, be it co-op or versus. I based one of the games I designed for MTV USA, completely on simple social interaction amongst the gamers, and it was one of the top selling products.

The fun I get out of killing another player’s character or helping a bunch of friends in a co-op mission in a game can never be replaced by doing the same with the AI.

Interest in multiplayer games, often branch out amongst gamers. For example, a gamer who loves the Battlefield series, might not be interested in World of Warcraft. A World of Warcraft player might love Facebook games. A Farmville gamer might hate her being called a gamer at all. Yes this brings in the difference in interest amongst game genres, and levels of interest in gaming amongst the various gamers. So we can say, that every gamer who likes multiplayer games, does not necessarily like all the successful multiplayer games.

But all multiplayer games are not always a ready-made success story. There is a whole lot of ‘what am I doing in the multiplayer’ which gets involved. Some of the core aspects which are included in this purpose are, the game’s story line, involvement with the character’s personality and development, the nature of the missions/quests, replay ability and of course the level of repetitiveness. Some of the less successful multi-player games lack in one or more of these core aspects.

But even if a game has these entire core aspects perfectly balanced out, they still fail to create a long term interest amongst the players. For example the Uncharted 2, Resistance 2 and Halo 2 multiplayer modes were no doubt amazing. They had new innovative modes of gameplay. But still they failed against the likes of the Battlefield and Call of Duty series. Red Dead Redemption, so far is also heading in the same direction.

It doesn’t really need to be a new game with amazing visuals and great gameplay to hold a gamer’s interest for its multiplayer. Games like Counterstrike, Quake series, Unreal Tournament series, and the Warcraft series has stood the test of time, and is still going strong.

Most of the recent multiplayer games do include some core RPG aspects in them though. Starting with gaining experience points to develop the character and unlock extra content. This is quite a gamble for the development teams. In the basic idea, you are holding your gamers off from enjoying the full potential of the multiplayer gameplay, till they have dedicated some good enough time on it. For developing this system, the development team has to be careful to make sure that every stage of the multiplayer, especially when the player is starting off, to be interesting enough to hold his attention, but at the same time always give him the need of progressing further. If its all boring till I unlock that final set of armor and weapon, am more likely to just drop that game and pick up another.

One of the other things this experience system often misses out is balancing the gameplay. In most of the games, a new player is often pitched head on against the highest level players on his very first game.

It definitely doesn’t appeal to the mass gamers, to keep getting kicked at the nuts for starting the multiplayer game later than someone else. It’s like sending a 5 year old for a Lead Game Designers job interview then told, “Oh sorry, it isn’t my fault that you were born 5 years back, this role existed in the industry for decades!”

There are ways to counter this, matchmaking systems which pitches players within +/- 5 levels against each other is a very good way to start with. And then there are different other refinements which could be implemented on that system.

We can study the traits from all the successful multiplayer games. It isn’t about new gameplay all the time; it could still be loading guns and killing each other out from the very beginning till the end. The most vital point achieved in all those games is to be appealing. Even if it’s a repeated core concept, the way the idea was implemented was appealing enough to hold interest amongst the gamers. Different development teams utilized different ways to create that appeal in their games, like Dice’s Frostbite 1.5 engine, Zynga’s easy learning curve etc.

So what aspects of a multiplayer game appeals to you?

So…I took up blogging.

I will kick start with some of the random poems and text blocks I had written years back. You will find them in the category ‘From the past’. The ARTs (Abstract and Random Thoughts) are just random thoughts I had, based on something, everything or nothing at all. Just a text impression of whatever was on my mind, when I was writing them. Why I wrote them, and what do they relate to, I have no idea about it now.

Most of the poems and songs I had written back in school days are lost behind the back of notepads and diaries. If I manage to find them, I will keep adding them in this section.

My recent posts will be under the category, From Today.

As the name suggests, mostly this blog will have things I feel, I think, my opinion about things around me and hence some of my blogs can come quite blunt for the readers. We all have the freedom of speech, and I respect your opinion as much as you respect mine.

I have also planned to include reviews of things I use in my everyday life, completely from a user’s prospective. It could be the games I play, or the bikes I ride, etc. So feel free to read them if you are interested in unbiased views.

%d bloggers like this: